The 1830s saw the first major damming of the Kennebec. By the middle of the decade, there were four dams between Skowhegan and Waterville. River towns situated by major falls, like Skowhegan, Waterville, Augusta and Gardiner, harnessed waterpower to run sawmills, factories, and textile mills.
Before the Edwards Dam in Augusta was built, great quantities of salmon, shad, alewives and other fish were caught in the Kennebec. Within a few generations, impassable dams, overfishing, and industrial pollution robbed the river of its fish. Today, many dams along the Kennebec are no longer a source of power and are slated for removal as people begin to realize the benefits of saving the river’s ecosystems. In 1999, the 160-year-old Edwards Dam was removed allowing the Kennebec River to flow freely from Waterville to the Atlantic Ocean.
Towns along the Kennebec have had to redefine themselves, turning industrial areas into downtowns that attract people with historic architecture, specialty shops and a manageable scale of living. In the past decade, in defiance of “sprawl” and big-box consumerism, many of these river towns have staged a comeback.
Between river towns, the banks of the Kennebec are dotted with farms. Along this section of the Kennebec, agriculture has a long history. Archaeological excavation at Dresden reveals early Native American settlements. The Kennebec Indians were the first to farm the land along the river, growing corn and beans. Farming remains an important part of life in the valley today.
From Augusta, the route crosses back to the west bank of the Kennebec River and continues on Route 201 to Farmingdale. From there, the corridor follows Route 27 back to the east side of the Kennebec to Randolph and continues on through Pittson to the intersection with Route 128 near Dresden Mills.